12:00 am Jul. 18, 20126
It's official. Jeremy Lin is no longer a member of the New York Knicks.
The Knicks dragged things out until virtually the 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night deadline, allowing their fans to suffer just a bit more in hopes that what they were seeing wasn't really happening.
But in the end, the same franchise that allowed Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas to spend them into irrelevance—that once spent $117 million on a team in 2006 that finished 23-59—let the international phenomenon Jeremy Lin, likely the most talented point guard they'll have a chance to acquire for the duration of the time Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are signed and in need of one—walk away.
He's joining the Houston Rockets, not because the Knicks thought he wasn't worth bringing back, or even that matching a three-year, $25.1 million offer would have crippled the Knicks financially.
Lin upset James Dolan. And once that happened, neither money nor improving the basketball team Dolan owned would be reasons enough to keep Jeremy Lin in New York.
It is the perfect complement to the unendurable length of Isiah Thomas' tenure in New York. In that case, Thomas stayed on long after he'd been disgraced as a general manager and coach, and had even cost the Knicks $11.6 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit. But on Thomas stayed, with Dolan looking to keep him with the Knicks in any way possible.
The main factor seems to be whether James Dolan thinks you're loyal to James Dolan. Competence, the preferences of his customers, how talent evaluators view basketball moves—these things are more relevant to other basketball teams.
I grew up a fan of the New York Knicks. From the age of five to the age of 20, Patrick Ewing was my favorite player. And I figured, once Ewing fell short of winning a championship and was traded away, that no other Knicks player would inspire my rooting passion the way Ewing did. How could anyone?
I had countless memories of watching Ewing's Knicks with my father, with friends, as I discovered basketball, the playoffs, hating the Pacers, the Heat, most of all the Bulls—Michael Jordan's Bulls.
That indifferent decade that followed is a bit of a blur now. One constant was trying to get my father to take an interest in the Knicks, while I could never find the means to separate from the team.
A man who bought his first color television to watch a Knicks playoff game against the Baltimore Bullets wouldn't watch once Ewing left. It wasn't a boycott. He simply had better things to do with his time.
That was true for Howard Eisley. For Stephon Marbury. For Steve Francis, for Jalen Rose, for Nate Robinson and David Lee. I couldn't give up on the Knicks, not when Thomas gave lessons in vernacular, not when Larry Brown gave impromptu pressers from his car.
He didn't even care when Amar'e Stoudemire signed on, or at any point during the minute-by-minute pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, or when the Knicks landed the defensive genius Tyson Chandler.
When the Knicks signed Jeremy Lin in December, I told him about Lin's potential, though I wondered if the Knicks would ever give Lin a chance to play. And when they did, and he responded that Saturday night against the Nets, my first two actions were to reach out to my editor about covering what would certainly be Lin's first start, and to purchase a Lin t-shirt for my two-year-old daughter, not realizing that the action would quickly become the ultimate cliche of 2012. (I had to special-order it; the Knicks Web site did not sell Lin shirts yet.)
Many people think of the night Jeremy Lin scored 38 to beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as the moment they became believers in Linsanity. But for me, it was the night I started receiving emails from my father about the game.
The Knicks became a topic for us again. I heard from him when Lin was playing, received urgent questions about Lin's return to health when he injured his knee, discussed exactly when and if the Knicks should play him against the Heat if he was cleared to play by Knicks doctors.
Jeremy Lin became as integral to following the Knicks, in just 25 games, as Patrick Ewing had been for a decade and a half.
Of course, now we know that 25 games is all we'll have.